THE DIRECTOR’S SEMINAR SERIES: Searching for Care Labour in African Social History

This paper explores the method I am developing in my forthcoming book which seeks to reread key texts in African social history for care. I explore three texts: Luise White’s The Comforts of Home; Jane Parpart’s Gender and Labour on the Zambian Copperbelt; and Tabitha Kanogo’s African Womanhood in Colonial Kenya. I show that these works can be read as ‘supportive texts’ (Marks 2000: 106) for studying the history of reproductive labour. Works of African social history have often recorded the provision of reproductive labour and the experiences of women when this form of labour comes under strain. My objective is to show that although in the first instance authors of these texts have not explicitly labelled reproductive labour as such, they have provided us with rich accounts of this work. I suggest that this these accounts provide us with an opportunity for rereading. My method in this book can be summed up as going back to texts to look for care. What forms of care have been provided by women and recorded by social historians? Often these accounts of reproductive labour are incidental to the main text – a text concerned with women’s work will contain rich accounts of care work but will not have this as its central concern. Or an account of women’s relationships with each other can be reread as an account of social reproduction being negotiated, redefined or contested. My method in the book is founded on Shula Marks' (2000) observation that ‘as new questions break the surface’ it might be possible to ‘suggest new ways of hearing and seeing old stories.

Institute of Advanced Legal Studies
Professor Ambreena Manji, School of Law and Politics, Cardiff University. Chair: Professor Carl Stychin, Director of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS) and professor of law
Event date: 
Monday, 9 May 2022 - 4:00pm